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Torrens Building thrown in to Govt fire sale

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The historic Torrens Building has been quietly added to the State Government’s fire sale of its public service headquarters.

Seven years after the sale was first mooted by then-Treasurer Kevin Foley, expressions of interest in the Weatherill Government’s Victoria Square headquarters – the State Administration precinct – will close this Thursday, May 7.

But the real estate listing by agents JLL reveals that the extent of the sell-off has now gone beyond that previously suggested, with the Government offloading 1.54 hectares (around 3.79 acres) of land and 61,612 square metres of office space in the centre of the city’s business district.

The listing details that the sale comprises “the State Administration Centre, Education Building, Wakefield House, Torrens Building, 12 Victoria Place, vacant land known as Hemmings Place and 24 Flinders Street”.

The heritage-listed Torrens Building, on the corner of Victoria Square and Wakefield St, was previously excluded from sale plans.

For the past decade, it’s been utilised as a higher education hub, housing the ill-fated local campuses for Cranfield University and University College London, which is slated to exit the site. Carnegie Mellon and Torrens Universities continue to occupy the space.

JLL referred queries about the change to the Government. In a statement, Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis said the Government had “decided to include the Torrens Building in the SAC precinct sale”, but suggested this need not impact on those universities in the short term.

“The property portfolio is underpinned by a 12-year lease to the Government of South Australia plus two five-year options that can be exercised by the lessee on a building by building basis,” he said.

The real estate advertisement lists the commencing gross rental as “$19,400,000 plus GST”.

When the sale was first announced in December 2008, it was expected to raise more than $400 million, but Koutsantonis would not speculate on the expected windfall.

“The estimated sale proceeds from these properties have not been disclosed to ensure a competitive process,” he said.

“The sale proceeds will be used to reduce debt.”

Signs point the way to the university "precinct" near Victoria Square.

Signs point the way to the university “precinct” near Victoria Square.

The net debt for the 2014-15 financial year, as of the Mid-year budget Review, was $3.99 billion, with a net debt to revenue ratio of 24.2 per cent.

The sales pitch for the State Administration precinct enthuses that it is “one of the most significant property portfolios ever offered in the Adelaide Central Business District”.

“The property provides significant passive income, with further development possible over portion of the site,” it reads.

“Covering almost an entire city block, the State Administration Centre Precinct enjoys extensive frontages to Flinders Street, Victoria Square, Wakefield Street and Gawler Place, and provides purchasers with an opportunity to acquire a strategic, institutional investment grade property portfolio in the core of Adelaide’s Central Business District.”

The Vice-Chancellor of Torrens University Australia, Professor Justin Beilby, said the Torrens Building was used increasingly for administrative purposes since the university launched a new campus on Wakefield Street in February.

“The current plan is to continue to operate from both locations and regardless of this sale we’re confident that we’ll be able to grow and continue to deliver the best outcomes for our students in and around Adelaide’s iconic Victoria Square,” he told InDaily.

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